After two failed health care technology start-ups of his own, Peter Kane felt there was something missing in the Minneapolis business culture — a distinct sense of community for start-up businesses.
So Kane started nonprofit Healthcare.mn in January 2013 to support health care technology start-ups by promoting events and offering co-working, or shared, office space. Kane spun off the office space business as Startup Venture Loft, a for-profit business, and opened it up to technology start-ups of all sorts. Healthcare.mn remains a tenant and Kane continues to promote Healthcare.mn events.
Startup Venture Loft just moved into 6,500 square feet of space at 211 N. 1st St. in the North Loop area of Minneapolis. During the past 11 months Kane had 2,100 square feet of co-working space in the SoHo Lofts at 718 Washington Av. S. Last weekend, Kane and others moved into their new digs. Embodying the start-up spirit, he solicited members, friends and family to help make the move.
In true collaborative fashion they are sharing the expanded space with Restore Collaborative, another co-working space geared to emerging and small businesses focused on making a positive social impact.
Recent success of its members, including companies like Divvy and Kidizen, has helped draw more attention to Startup Venture Loft. Last week, with fresh paint cans not yet stored away in the new space, Kane already was looking for more space in the building. Kane said he is very close to finalizing a lease for 5,400 square feet on the third floor of 211 N. 1st St. When that’s final, the company will depart the second-floor space, but maintain its relationship with Restore Collaborative.
There are other co-working spaces in the region: CoCo with locations in the old Minneapolis Grain Exchange, Uptown, St. Paul’s Lowertown and Fargo, N.D., which also caters to freelancers and small businesses, and TreeHouse Health in Loring Park, which supports innovation and growth of emerging health care companies.
“When you come to our space you are only going to meet people working on start-ups,” Kane said.
Kane is trying to build a community exclusively devoted to start-ups.
“The community aspect is the single most driving force to the space,” said Kane, whose members have access to workstations, conference rooms and a small kitchen area. Kane’s larger goals are to offer a better way to connect with early stage funding, match company founders with mentors, and match companies with advisers who can provide legal, financial and technical support.
Bills for the space are paid through memberships and some business sponsorships.
Ryan Johnson, an attorney at Minneapolis-based Fredrikson & Byron, specializes in helping health care entrepreneurs and has attended and addressed Healthcare.mn events. Fredrikson supports the effort to create a vibrant ecosystem for start-up companies. The law firm is a financial sponsor of Healthcare.mn and offers deferred-payment legal services to promising Healthcare.mn members.
“There is tremendous value in this kind of space — it allows like-minded creative individuals to collaborate, ” Johnson said. “Successful innovation hubs are those that bring energy and brains together in one space. ”
Johnson says the events are well attended and bring in a wide variety of people, including representatives from government and large companies like UnitedHealth, Medtronic and Target. “He’s getting the attention of larger players,” Johnson said.
Kane has spent a fair amount of time in Silicon Valley observing the start-up scene there. He said he came close to relocating, but has pride in the Minneapolis area. He believes some of the best features of the start-up communities in Silicon Valley; Madison, Wis.; Kansas City; Chicago, and Fargo can be applied to the unique business culture in Minneapolis.
“I’m glad I stayed and engaged in this work,” said Kane, who finds it rewarding when others do the same. “It’s encouraging to me when people are willing to stay in Minneapolis because they don’t want to miss out on the start-up community building here.”